The Hard Truth of Beloved Community – 2

In talking to Jonathan the other day about a person he had not met I indicated she was a person of color, African American to be precise. 

Then, I realized I had done it again. Earlier, in the same conversation, I spoke of another person he had not met, who is not a person of color, but in that instance I did not mention that fact. I felt no need to describe what is essentially the default position. Among people who label ourselves white, we assume that our racialized identity is the norm. We don’t have to specifiy skin color, it is assumed to be ours. 

white privilege 2
buzzfeed.com

This is often called “white privilege”–the unearned status to be, and to assume to be, the norm. 

This came back to me as I watched an excellent film about racism on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity” is a 75-minute film intended to lay out the various components of the system that put in place, and keeps in place, racial inequality. 

The film has enough didactic material to help the viewer understand the structural elements, and enough personal story-telling and commentary by a wide variety of individuals to give it depth and make it interesting and lively.  The audience, mostly people who call ourselves white, at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt–part of the monthly social justice oriented monthly series, Meal & Reel at the New Deal, sponsored by an alliance of activist groups– was appreciative of the film.

Cracking_the_Codes
dailykos.com

There was discussion, too. And that is where I noticed how the people of color in the room were much more ready to talk. Some who call ourselves white did talk, though a disproportionately small share (in terms of the ratio of attendees who were not people of color). 

Of course, the people of color had interesting, insightful, and important things to say. I am glad they spoke. 

What disturbs me, however, is how we who call ourselves white talk so little about race and racism. Even more, most of the time (as was true at the film-showing Monday night), when we do talk it seems to be about a time we noticed some other person who looks like us acting unjustly toward a person of color (and occasionally that includes our speaking up to object) or a time we realized the deleterious effects of racism on a person or persons of color. 

hand over mouth
media.co.uk

What we do not do is to talk about our own racism, our own learned attitudes and behaviors, our own complicity in maintaining systemic structures of racialized inequity. Partly this is due to the fact that the structures are hard to see. They are designed to work without our having to make any conscious choices. That is one reason it is called privilege–it is an accident of birth that goes with us throughout life. Membership has its privileges. 

But that does not let us off the hook. 

If we want racial justice, if we want a beloved community where all thrive–and I believe the overwhelming proportion of us who call ourselves white very much want that–we are going to have to get confessional. We will not overcome systemic racial inequities until we do the hard work of being open and honest about what we feel and what is at work in us. When we do that, we can change ourselves, and help others change, too. That is how the nation will really change, from the ground up. We can undo the white privilege that undergirds racialized inequity. 

confession time
guiltfreechristianity.org

For me, to start, I am going to really work at monitoring my speech patterns, and though patterns, too, to find out how I create my identity as a person I and others call white as the norm, and thus how many times and ways I replicate the model of racialized social domination in my daily patterns of living.  

And I am going to write about it, and I am going to tell others. I am committed to breaking the codes by breaking the silence. 

What about you? Where will you start? Feel free to write me here, with your ideas and personal commitments. 

 

I Am a Writer. Repeat. I Am a Writer. Repeat . . .

Getting organized, and staying organized, are probably the greatest challenges of my life.

Robin Study desk chaosI do not seem to know how to organize even my desk, let alone myself. I manage to keep our over-crowded home (we didn’t downsize enough when we moved here in the summer and we are struggling to do so now) in fairly good order–with Jonathan’s help–but my study is simply chaotic (see picture).

Some of this is due to my still trying to figure out how to live my new life as a writer. This is the first time in almost 50 years of working that I have worked for myself by myself. Perhaps this is part of finally growing up!

Maybe also I am having trouble accepting my newfound call to write, still doubting that I have the capacity to pull it off. I know I carry around some sense yet that I am a fraud, that I don’t really know how to write, that if I really pour myself into this I will stumble and fall.

I am a writerOf course, I have more to learn about my new profession–it would be sad if I thought otherwise, even had I been writing all my life–and yes I may stumble and fall. But I have done that before and have always picked myself up, with God’s help and my friends and family. I can do that again.

But a fraud? How can I be a fraud when the call on my soul is so clear? It would not be the first time I doubt God, but if the past is any indication that is a losing proposition! If there is one thing I have learned it is that trusting God is the way forward in life.

Of course, that does not mean I cannot or should not argue with God. I agree with those interpreters of the Book of Job who say that the reason God rewards Job and chastises his friends is because Job cared enough, believed enough, to argue with God while they counseled him to simply give in.

Job and friends
blogs.thegospelcoalition.org

But I don’t feel like arguing with God. I think, I believe, God is right. Or to put it even more clearly, I believe God (something that is far more vital than simply believing in God, good though that is).

And I believe, I feel certain, that I heard God correctly through the voice of the trees in Yosemite a year ago (see “And The Writing Keeps Crying Out”). My call feels genuine and powerful.

So, to get back to organization. A writer needs a good space for writing. I need a good space for writing.

soul tree side view 2Today, I will do some sorting and sifting and concentrate on how to begin to make this space work for me. No more being overwhelmed by chaos. I will at least begin to tame it.

Stay tuned for progress reports. And feel free to share tips and ideas you have for conquering the Disorganizing Syndrome.

The Destination Is the Journey

I am listening right now for the words to come, trusting that there is something that needs me to say it, write it, today. Unnerving to realize I am not totally in charge of this process, that a greater force, and a more intimate one, plays an indispensable role–without which whatever I type or pen will lack some essence of life.

road in autumn lightIt is one thing to string words together in an artful way, and something else far more rewarding when they sing with soul. I imagine even technical writing, if approached with humility and openness, can sing at least a little–even if it is the goal of such writing to be in total control through the mind.

I don’t want my mind to be in total control, I don’t even want total control however it might come, even though it is tempting at times. The ego wants so much to be in control, but that means severing or at least limiting a relationship with God, among others, and I don’t want that.

dark roadMy relationship with God is built on the willingness to remain open to what comes, to be willing to experience all that life offers, and to trust God to guide me through in ways it is good for me to go.

The destination is not an ending point, not a place. The destination is the open, trusting journey that never ends.

Today Is National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day

New age of Know Nothings is upon us
Curiosity upon curiosity
Odd over odd yet weirder still
elected officials claim religious exemptions to avoid doing their jobs
presidential candidates claim constitutional provisions unAmerican
say stuff happens can’t stop gun deaths
Wall will stop immigrants
Russian bombs for Syria end up in Iran
House Republicans kill off another Speaker due to his weak Right wing

We need some poetry rhyme or no rhyme bad meter or good beat
to lift us from the morass of ego upon endless ego
masking helium-filled lives pretending to be full of more than gas
truth with capital T poking pretense upending lies
some say its only for sissies but some of the toughest folks are that way
poets a tough breed who can tell you off without your knowing
see things that do not exist until the word gives them life
prick a wounded psyche and make it sing
Send in the poets Let us breathe again

To Write Is to Write

I am embarking on my long-delayed vocation as a writer.

image
[image from global university.edu]
I am not engaged in it full-time yet–have to finish some important work for People of Faith for Equality in Virginia (POFEV), and deal with another big project in my life–but I am committed to writing regularly. In fact, I have pledged to write daily.

One vehicle I have chosen is every day to offer a few thoughts on my Facebook page–spiritual or poetic or even issue-oriented (but not related to my work for POFEV)–as a form of accountability. It is one sure way to make sure I do what I say I am going to do.

image
[image from universitypressclub.com]
Yesterday, I dropped the ball–visiting my daughter Robin and husband Christopher in Brooklyn (and having great conversation with her after he went to work), and then taking the Long Island Railroad to Yaphank (what a name!) to spend several days with daughter Meg and her family, husband Kevin and daughters Juna and Annie–and wrote nothing.

This is not a confession so much as an opportunity to say why I am writing daily (almost) on Facebook.

image
[image from gretchenrubin.com]
I do not intend any of the short pieces to be final and complete–some might actually become polished poems or maybe the start of a longer essay or spiritual reflection. But for now, they are ways for me to record some thoughts–to notice what is going on and to write it down, which is, according Anne Lamott, what writers do.

Whatever, the key to writing is to write. A writer writes. I am a writer who writes.